Hundreds of supporters of the controversial North Carolina law that prevents cities from expanding rights for gay and transgender people gathered outside the state capitol building on Monday, cheering Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican legislators who wrote the law.
Supporters - many raising signs saying “Keep NC Safe” - yelled thanks to McCrory and the legislators who approved House Bill 2 in a day-long session in late March, and decried local and out-of-state leaders who have criticized the law.
The rally was the largest public show of support in the three weeks since the law was passed, and often veered on political campaign. In a speech, Republican state Sen. Buck Newton criticized Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has refused to defend the state in a federal lawsuit challenging the law.
PayPal, which last week canceled plans to open an office in Charlotte, and other businesses have criticized the law as part of an orchestrated effort by LGBT rights groups to attack the state, Newton told the crowd.
“They want corporations throughout this country to defame North Carolina,” Newton said. “They insist on forcing us to bow and kiss the ring of their political correctness theology.”
Newton, who ushered HB2 in the Senate, is the Republican nominee for attorney general. His Democratic counterpart, former state Sen. Josh Stein, has called for the law to be repealed.
On a sidewalk across the street from the Capitol Building, a few dozen protesters chanted and held posters with signs such as “HB2 = Disgrace.” The law stigmatizes transgender people because it requires people to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate, said one protester, Shane Thrapp of Cary. But the law has a wider reach.
House Bill 2 prohibits cities and counties from extending discrimination protection ordinances to LGBT people and prohibits the residents from filing workplace discrimination claims in state court. Claims can still be filed in federal court, where suits can be more costly and time-consuming than in state court.
“That’s a smokescreen that they put in place so that they can justify their bigotry and justify the actual focus of the law,” Thrapp said.
The competing rallies underscore the ongoing struggle to control the public dialogue over HB2, and the state appears to be split.
A recent poll for Time Warner Cable News North Carolina, conducted by Survey USA, showed 51 percent of state voters believe legislators did the right thing in nullifying a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use bathrooms in line with their gender identity. But the same poll showed that 53 percent of voters said LGBT people should be included in any law preventing discrimination along with race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex.